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Talking about noticing something, do both mean the same?

For example:

  • I just figured out that the ball is blue.
  • I just realized that the ball is blue.
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closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, Andrew Leach, Robusto, MετάEd, tchrist Dec 8 '12 at 6:00

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

What did you find in a dictionary? Realise | Figure out -- it looks like those definitions could overlap to some extent, even if they are not entirely synonymous. Perhaps you could show your own research. –  Andrew Leach Dec 8 '12 at 0:05
@Andrew: The definitions only overlap insofar as in both cases you end up being aware of something. But it seems to me it's General Reference that you always have to make a mental effort to figure something out, whereas realise normally carries no such implication of "directed effort" (in fact, realisation often comes completely out of the blue). –  FumbleFingers Dec 8 '12 at 0:12
@F Yes, I'm happy that it's General Reference too. The definitions explain exactly what you have enunciated. In the absence of anything more in the question, a single link to a reference work suffices. –  Andrew Leach Dec 8 '12 at 0:16

1 Answer 1

No. They are substantially different.

To realize, in the sense of coming to a conclusion (and not as in to bring into reality, which is akin to inventing something), means to comprehend something completely.

The act of figuring out is the act of finding a solution to a problem.

Realization usually happens unexpectedly, as if by magic. One minute your mind wanders, and then you see something in a new light. In that sense, it's a passive occurrence.

Figuring something out, on the other hand, takes effort, and is normally done with a specific goal in mind.

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I agree. Realizations often come serendipitously, often while doing something not directly related to the question at hand. Figuring out something implies a conscious effort to calculate/investigate/study a matter and actively search for the answer. I may realize that the Israel-Palestine conflict is not easily solvable while watching the news and reading articles (it just "clicks" in the head); on the other hand, I figure out what's wrong with my car by methodically going through a checklist of potential issues and eliminating each one systematically. –  narx Dec 8 '12 at 0:24
Are they both factive? I.e, can you say He figured out that the moon is made of green cheese? You can't say *He realized that the moon is made of green cheese because realize is factive and presupposes its complement. Does figure out? –  John Lawler Dec 8 '12 at 1:14

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